If you haven’t seen Invictus yet, don’t miss it in the theater. I was resistant at first because I’m not a rugby fan and it looked like it might be a bit cheesy in that way sports movies can be.
I was wrong, and I haven’t talked to so many people about a movie in years. Especially not a movie about real events and real people. (Well to be totally honest there was too much rugby for my taste, but it was a Clint Eastwood film after all!)
We all know the incredible story of Mandela’s 27 years in prison, eventual release, election as South Africa’s first black president and how his leadership and faith has helped his country heal from devastating racism without any major violence.
What this movie focused on was a seemingly minor situation unfolding against the backdrop of these incredible personal and historical feats:
Mostly-white South African Rugby team loved by most white South Africans and loathed by most black South Africans has a chance at the Rugby World Cup. Mandela gets pressured by his closest supporters and allies to change the name of the team and bring on more black players as part of his new administration. He refuses, to the dismay of his colleagues and many of his citizens.
Instead, he personally befriends the unassuming (and somewhat desperate) white captain of the rugby team and shares with him that the team’s success has the potential of uniting the whole country during a very divided time.
The film is called Invictus because it’s the name of a poem Mandela relied on to help maintain his faith and perspective in jail. Mandela shares this poem with the rugby Captain, which in turn inspires him, and he’s able to inspire his struggling team to victory. And, Mandela turns out to have been right – it does unite the country, at least for that day.
How did Mandela have the courage to stay true to his convictions, despite so much hatred and opposition? What enabled him to withstand the pressure not just from his enemies, but from his closest friends?
Most of us won’t ever be caught up in the cross-hairs of history in the way Mandela was, but I know I deeply resonate with the question of how to keep my faith and motivation going through tough times.
Regardless of the scale of change we might be working toward, or the challenges we might face, each of us is tasked with finding our own version of Invictus, something to carry us through and help inspire those around us. What’s yours?
February 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm -
I’ve been wanting to see this film and you just convinced me to make it a priority! Thank you for asking the question about what our Invictus is and for sharing yours. My own is not a poem, but my father’s spirit. Losing him six years ago was the most traumatic event of my life, and yet I’m here. I survived to keep growing and to share my insights about healing with others. My toughest days come nowhere close to that healing journey. I pull strength from that place and also from knowing that Dad would want me to keep pursuing my dreams. Thanks, Jill.
February 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm -
While I liked the movie a lot, the poem didn’t move me. It felt too singular… the individual against the world. So when you asked about our own “version of Invictus” I remembered a quote from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in a message she sent out just after 9/11. It has been an organizing image ever since:
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.
Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, and causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these is to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.”
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D, author of “Women Who Run With the Wolves”
To be continued…
February 8, 2010 at 8:31 pm -
Good point Dan. I don’t love the poem either, and apparently we’re in good company: http://blogs.indystar.com/upstage/2010/01/invictus_worst.html
I loved the Estes lines – reminds me of the flock of geese in the Mary Oliver poem, each turning in the light to help the others on their way.
February 8, 2010 at 11:31 pm -
Wow Debbie – I so appreciate your sharing about your Dad. Sounds like it’s not just his spirit that supports you, but that your own spirit has grown stronger through your grieving process. What a gift to you and those of us lucky enough to know you.
February 11, 2010 at 4:38 pm -
Good news. Invictus was not actually the poem that inspired Mandela, but a poem by Teddy Roosevelt was. It is called “The Man in the Arena” and it reads…
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Teddy Roosevelt, April 23, 1910
February 11, 2010 at 6:05 pm -
I like that much better Andrea! It’s still got that air of individualism, but with less of a “me-against-the-world-vibe.” Teddy definitely saw his share of dust and sweat and blood, too. Thanks for the insight.
June 30, 2011 at 10:51 pm -
And Invictus is the movie version of a great book which I read with relish called Playing the Enemy. And the Teddy Roosevelt poem is the bomb. Thanks other Andrea for correcting the record. A
Tel: 1.206.909.4678 Send Me An Email
Jill Sheldon Open Road Coaching 6027 46th Ave SW Seattle WA 98136